Lost in Asgard is pleased to present a new feature where we will get to know an artist from various geek communities and spend some time learning about their new works! This addition I am happy to present and exceptional new author in the realm of Austen, Beau North. During this interview Beau and I took a more geeky path to see just how the Austen fandom ticks and how it relates to modern media. Lets dive right in shall we, how bout a blurb from the recently released Lonbourn’s Songbird.
About Longbourn’s Songbird
In the autumn of 1948, young millionaire Will Darcy comes to the sleepy, backwater town of Meryton, South Carolina to visit his best friend, Charles Bingley. When Darcy becomes enchanted by a local beauty with a heavenly voice, his business dealings with Longbourn Farms may close the door to his romantic hopes before they are given a chance to thrive.
Still healing from heartbreak, Elizabeth Bennet takes solace in her family, home, and the tight-knit community of Meryton. That foundation is shaken when Will Darcy makes a successful offer to buy the family farm. Blinded by hurt, will Elizabeth miss the chance to find in him the peace and comfort her heart truly needs?
Confronting the racial, economic, and social inequalities of the times, Longbourn’s Songbird is an imaginative romance inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and told through the lens of postwar America, a story layered with betrayal and loss, love and letting go.
Q: You’re already pretty well-steeped in Nerd Culture. What made you go for Jane Austen Fanfic?
A: I wholeheartedly believe you can be nerdy about anything. Over the past 5 years or so there’s been a real renewal of interest in Austen’s work, and I think it’s appealing to so many new readers because it’s still so relevant. We can relate to stories like Emma and Pride & Prejudice because we all have that one nosy friend, or that overbearing mother. I love how much of Austen fanfic (or JAFF) is so, so, romantic, but if you go back and read her books they’re more humorous than anything. She wasn’t afraid to satirize things like love, or family, or friendship. It’s just really funny stuff.
It wasn’t really a conscious choice on my part to write Austen fanfic, it just kind of happened. I’ll tell you how all fanfic starts, and that’s with a “what if?” What if, instead of Regency England, Pride & Prejudice took place in my hometown? Okay, done. At that time England was at war with Napoleon. Okay, what if it took place in my hometown during/after WWII? And boom, six years later you’ve got a novel. What If is a magical question, with an infinite number of answers.
Q: This book is a bit more serious than the standard Austenesque novel. Was that always something you had in mind?
A: Absolutely not. While it had serious moments and some romantic tension, but the first iteration of this book was much more insubstantial, more “fluff” if you will. That’s when my writing partner (the very talented Brooke West) read it and said “you can do better.” I had to come to terms with the fact that I’d made everything much too simple. There were no consequences, no costs. Then I went waaaay in the other direction and made it much too heavy. I had to find a balance, and I hope I did that well.
Q: The book focuses mostly on three main characters, with some of Pride & Prejudice’s side characters given a bigger role. Why spend more time with Charlotte Lucas, Richard Fitzwilliam (Austen purists will know him as Colonel Fitzwilliam) and Anne De Bourgh?
A: We spend most of Pride & Prejudice in Elizabeth Bennet’s mind, and it’s great, but when I set out to do this I knew that there was a much bigger story here. And, by utilizing other viewpoints, I was able to put the main characters into a deeper contrast. Charlotte, Richard, and Anne all had their own stories to tell. They still do.
Q: Who inspired your main characters?
A: I’ve actually been holding off on answering this question until now. Well, as I’ve already said on my blog, Elizabeth was based on Hedy Lamarr. Charlotte Lucas was inspired by one of my best friends in real life. My grandmother was the inspiration for Jane Bennet, she was a stunning beauty in her day. But the big question is who inspired Darcy, Bingley, and Richard…Well Bingley was pretty easy. Ashton Holmes’ turn in The Pacific was a big part of the inspiration for Charles. Richard is, was, and always will be Tom Mison. I got to meet Tom at DragonCon this past September, and told him about the book and the character that he inspired. He was very gracious and flattered, and remembered me when I saw him later that day. If anyone out there has a way to contact Tom, let him know I’m holding a free book for him!
As far as Darcy goes…my choice may surprise some. My editor, Christina Boyd, likes Henry Cavill as Darcy, but when I was writing this book I pictured him as Sam Reid. I was staring at pictures of Sam when I wrote Elizabeth’s first sighting of Darcy:
His wavy dark hair was meticulously combed back from a strong brow that looked as if it might be permanently furrowed. He had a well-defined jaw and a subtly cleft chin, like the suggestion of a dimple. His full lower lip gave him an air of petulance, but was his one feature that hinted at a deeper sensuality. Everything else about him, from the cool intensity of his gaze to the confident manner in which he moved, gave the impression of authority. He wore his masculinity with the same ease in which he wore his expensive suit, as a matter of course.
Q: Would someone have to know the work of Jane Austen to enjoy this story?
A: I don’t think so! I’ll be perfectly honest, I didn’t read Austen until I was already in my 30’s. My first exposure to her work was Bride & Prejudice, which is fanfic in movie form, and even without knowing the details of the plot, I loved it. It never diminished my love for the original story when I finally did get around to reading her books. I think most people can enjoy this book, provided they don’t mind some adult language and content. I tackle some of the nastier aspects of small-town life, of being in and of the deep south. There are some sections of the book that are not for the faint of heart!
Q: Fanfic is having it’s moment in the sun right now with specials like Lost in Austen, Death Comes to Pemberley, and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. Do you see that trend continuing?
A: I think as with all things the momentum will slow eventually, but for now it’s going full speed ahead. I know that the Hallmark Channel is getting ready to adapt Teri Wilson’s Unleashing Mr. Darcy, so if anything I see the fanfic adaptation trend getting much, much bigger. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up with its own channel at some point.
Q: Would you want Longbourn’s Songbird to be adapted?
A: Only if they can get Tom Mison to play Richard.
Q: Are you going to see Pride & Prejudice & Zombies?
A: Of course! Matt Smith is playing Mr. Collins, that alone makes it impossible to pass up! I think it looks like it would be a lot of fun, and I think if Jane Austen were around today, she’d be plenty amused by it.
Q: There is an LGBT presence in this book- was that intentional?
A: I certainly didn’t set out saying “You know what would make this story better? Lesbians.” The story just naturally progressed that way. I was writing the one character and it just clicked in my head. If you look at those two characters in context, where they are in their lives, it made sense that they would bond over that shared experience. Not to say that everyone bonds over how they love. I certainly don’t go around saying “I like you more because you’re cisgender and hetero like me” and I don’t think these characters would either. That initial spark of attraction had to be there first, and from there it took on a life of its own.
Q: Are you expecting pushback from that?
A: I hope not! I think if anything some might push back because while Elizabeth and Darcy are off being flawed and foolish I gave this other couple a grand, romantic, dangerous love story.
Q: What are three things a new reader should know about your book?
A: The first thing goes back to what I said before about adult content, but let me be more specific: I’m not talking about sex. Or, not just sex. I’m talking about the type of adult situations that make people uncomfortable, the things you might not talk about it mixed company.
The second thing to keep in mind is that these characters have flaws. I didn’t write paragons of virtue who are beset on circumstances beyond their control. These are as close as I could get to writing real people, who sometime try and fail, who make mistakes, who do stupid things for no good reason.
And last and most importantly, it’s now available on Amazon!
About the Author
Beau North is a native southerner who now calls Portland, Oregon home with her husband and two cats. She attended the University of South Carolina where she began a lifelong obsession with English Literature. In her spare time, Beau is the brains behind Rhymes With Nerdy, an internet collective focused on pop culture. This is her first novel.